Wapama (steam schooner)

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Steam schooner Wapama in Richmond Shipyard, February 2006
Name: Wapama (1915–1938)
Tongass (1938–c.1963)
Wapama (c.1963–)
Launched: 1915
Fate: Dismantled in August 2013
General characteristics
Tonnage: 951 (gross), 584 (net)
Length: 204 ft (62 m)
Beam: 40 ft (12 m)
Depth: 14.3 ft (4.4 m)
Installed power: 825 hp (615 kW) triple-expansion steam engine
Capacity: 1,000,000 board feet (2,000 m3) of lumber
Wapama (steam schooner)
Wapama (steam schooner) is located in California
Wapama (steam schooner)
Location Richmond, California[2]
Coordinates 37°54′21.1″N 122°22′0″W / 37.905861°N 122.36667°W / 37.905861; -122.36667Coordinates: 37°54′21.1″N 122°22′0″W / 37.905861°N 122.36667°W / 37.905861; -122.36667
Built 1915[2]
Architect James H. Price; St. Helens Shipbuilding Co.
Governing body National Park Service
NRHP Reference # 73000228[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP 24 April 1973[1]
Designated NHL 20 April 1984[3]

Wapama, also known as Tongass, was a vessel last located in Richmond, California. She was the last surviving example of some 225 wooden steam schooners that served the lumber trade and other coastal services along the Pacific Coast of the United States.[2] She was managed by the National Park Service at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park until dismantled in August 2013.

Wapama was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1984.[3][2]


Wapama was a two-masted, 204-foot-long (62 m) wooden schooner, 40-foot (12 m) at the beam. She had an 825 horsepower (615 kW) triple-expansion steam engine. She could carry 1,000,000 board feet (2,000 m3) of lumber.[2] She had severe dry rot which threatened the structural integrity of the hull. The National Maritime Museum developed plans to dismantle her.[3]


  • 1915 – Named: Wapama for Charles R. McCormick Steamship Company Flag: United States
  • 1915-02 – Main Street Iron Works installed a main engine and associated machinery in San Francisco
  • 1915 – Sold to the Wapama Steamship Company for a total of $10.
  • 1915-11-27 – Frasier River, Grounding on silt B.C., No damage; refloated
  • 1915-12-06 – San Francisco (foot of Jones Street) Grounding on mud No damage; refloated
  • 1917-05-17 – Ranieer Collision with steamer Doris No damage
  • 1917-06 16 – Near San Diego Grounding on mud No damage; towed off by Navy tug
  • 1922-11 – Sold to McCormick Steamship Company, any shareholders were bought out
  • 1925-09 – Sold to The Charles R. McCormick Lumber Company
  • 1930-05-20 – Sold to The Los Angeles-San Francisco Navigation Company of Claudine C. Gillespie, Albert E. Gillespie, and Charles Gillespie.
  • 1932-12 – San Francisco Masts snapped off while loading. Masts repaired or replaced
  • 1937-04-20 – Sold to Erik Krag, president of the Viking Steamship Company, a subsidiary of Inter-Ocean Steamship Corporation, a company run by Erik Krag and Harry Brown, for $12,500
  • 1937-12-23 – Sold to The Alaska Transportation Company for $27,000
  • 1938-02-04 – Renamed: Tongass Refitted for cargo service to Alaska, designed for the owners by the W.C. Nickum and Sons naval architecture firm. The Lake Union Dry Dock and Construction Company carried out the work, which ended in May 1938. New admeasurement: from 951 to 999 gross tons and 584 to 524 net tons.
  • unknown – Long Beach Collision with breakwater. Extensive damage; repaired
  • 1947-05-10 – Seattle Strucker steamer Reff Knot Increased leaking to hull
  • 1947-06-06 – Underwent a Coast Guard inspection in a Seattle drydock. The inspector noted that although the vessel's hull was in fair condition, the ship was to be taken out of service.
  • 1948 – Sold to salvage company Jack Mendelsohn and Son. Laid up in Lake Union in preparation for scrapping.
  • 1950s – Seattle Fire, Engine room Damage to structures in engine room.
  • 1958-01-10 – Sold to the California Division of Beaches and Parks for $16,000. The state moved the steam schooner to San Francisco for preservation as a historic vessel.
  • From 1959 to 1963 the vessel underwent restoration at the Oakland Dock and Warehouse Company under the direction of the San Francisco Maritime State Historic Park. Renamed: Wapama
  • 1963-10-02 – Opened to the public as a museum ship
  • 1964-65 – Drydocked for repairs at Bethlehem Steel Shipyard in San Francisco
  • 1967 – Drydocked for further repairs at Bethlehem Steel Shipyard in San Francisco
  • 1970 – Drydocked for further repairs at Merritt Shipyard in Oakland
  • 1977 – Sold to the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area
  • 1979 – Placed on a barge to ensure the steam schooner does not sink or suffer a broken back.
  • 2013 – Dismantled.


The National Park Service announced its intention to dismantle Wapama in a 19 May 2011, San Francisco Chronicle article, but it also had considered saving the steam engine.[4] While a majority of bloggers responding to the article voiced dismay and/or support for preservation, a minority advocated burning the Wapama in a manner done to the last commercial Great Lakes sailing ship J T Wing at Belle Isle near the site of the present day Dossin Great Lakes Museum in Detroit.

Wapama's impending doom followed the fate of the lumber schooner Wawona (1897) of the Northwest Seaport, Seattle, Washington, which was broken up in 2009.

Not all listed historic wooden ships considered in need of major restoration in recent years have ended up being broken up. The lumber schooner C.A. Thayer (1895), also a NPS charge, was restored, although 80% of her wood was replaced through a restoration that lasted from 2004 to 2007. Mystic Seaport began a major restoration of the whaler Charles W. Morgan (1841) in 2009 to seaworthy status.

Surviving wooden American steamers[edit]

Five American wood steamboats survive, although three are much smaller than Wapama had been. They are the Virginia V (1922) of Seattle; the Sabino (1908), a former Maine boat now operated by Mystic Seaport; Minnehaha (1906), of Lake Minnetonka, Wisconsin; Nenana (1933), an Alaskan stern-wheeler; and the railroad ferry Eureka (1890) a museum ship in San Francisco. The first three are screw steamers. The Steamer Virginia V Foundation undertook a $6.5-million stem-to-stern restoration of their charge, which lasted from 1995 to 2001.[5]


  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Delgado, James P. (17 December 1982). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Steam Schooner Wapama (Tongass)" (pdf). National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-10-21. 
    "Accompanying Photos" (pdf). National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-22. 
  3. ^ a b c "Wapama (Steam Schooner)". National Historic Landmarks Program. National Park Service. Retrieved 2007-11-18. 
  4. ^ Nolte, Carl (23 May 2011). "Lumber schooner Wapama, last of kind, is condemned". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-10-21. 
  5. ^ "History of the Virginia V Steamship". The Steamer Virginia V Foundation. Retrieved 2012-10-21. 

External links[edit]